Magic. Treachery. Eternal love.
Something about him calls to her, makes her feel things again. It’s as though her heart already knows him.
Ursel Seagrove came to Seton Court, the home of the evil warlock Ogden Butcher, to try to uncover a mystery. Witches had been disappearing all over England, and he was the prime suspect. She was too late! Ogden slew her lover right in front of her, then trapped her in stone.
Remington Chase, the best-selling horror novelist, has fantasized about Seton Court for years. The creepy garden with it’s strange stone sculptures was a perfect playground for his fertile imagination. Now, armed with the deed to the house, he can’t wait to use it as the setting for his next book.
He’s drawn to one statue in particular. The stone woman is incredibly lovely. She looked so sad, so desperate, as if she were waiting for a lover who would never appear. When he comes across a book of spells, his words bring Ursel back to life. She steals his heart with a single kiss. Unable to let her go, he vows to join her in her dangerous quest to destroy Ogden before the evil warlock can strike again.
Outside London, England
“Your garden really is lovely. So — unique.”
“You mean so crowded? Yes, several people have told me that. I just ignore them.”
“As you’ll ignore me?” Ursel Seagrove turned to the handsome man standing behind her. He stood near the fountain, his hands on his hips, his attraction to her obvious in the tenting of his trousers.
“No one could ignore one as beautiful as you, my dear.” Ogden Butcher took a step nearer and her stomach roiled. She must remember why she was here. She must stay calm.
“Shall we make love in the garden? The grass will provide a soft blanket for us.”
“It’s such an interesting display,” she said, ignoring his question. “You seem to have it separated into four parts. Do they represent the seasons?”
“No, not exactly.” He stepped closer and caressed her shoulder. “I classify them according to how they pleased me.”
She turned toward him. “What?”
His smile sent chills up her spine.
“The fountain in the center, of course, is me. It’s the heart of the garden, as I’m the heart of Seaton Court. Then, the main part of the garden is separated into four parts, yes. From the left: we have boring with little talent; dull with talent; mildly entertaining and very talented; and orgasmic and brilliant. Further down are ones I’ve yet to place. As you said, the statuary is so crowded.” This time his smile was menacing.
“I don’t understand.” She took a step back, narrowing her eyes at him.
“No, you and your little coven never understood. You knew your members were disappearing but you didn’t know how. Only that they vanished after visiting me. That’s why you sent that simpleton here.” He straightened and gave her a mock concerned look. “Oh, I’m sorry. That simpleton was your lover, wasn’t he?”
The word was, made her heart beat faster. “Where is he?”
“Oh, I had such trouble placing him. He had a very talented tongue.” Butcher licked his lips and Ursel hissed. “But his magical powers were sorely lacking. Did you choose him simply because of his beauty, or the endowment he has between his legs? Or was it his brute strength? Did you think he could physically overpower me to get me to talk? Or did you believe I would let him go, because he had no real talent to contribute to me?”
Ursel stretched out her hands, energy shooting between her fingers. “Take me to him.”
“With pleasure. In the end I put him in the orgasmic part of the garden, since he provided me with such bliss with his tight little — sorry, you don’t want to hear the details, I’m sure. Come.”
He rounded the fountain and took a trail that led through a double line of columnar yews. Ursel followed him, the smell of sweet peas wafting over her. He came to a stone archway, taking a key from his pocket to unlock the wooden door.
“I have to keep my children under wraps, so they’re well protected. Especially this group.” He shivered in delight and then laughed at her sneer. “It’s a pity you’re not more amiable to me. If we mixed our powers together we would be invincible, you and I. Are you sure you won’t reconsider my earlier offer? I am a powerful lover.”
She wanted to rail at him, to scream that she would never align herself with a warlock as dark as he. But she was afraid if she did, he wouldn’t lead her to Cadman. Maybe it wasn’t too late. Maybe she could do something to save him. After all, if Butcher was keeping him under wraps he must still be alive.
“Where is he?”
“Very well.” He pushed open the door and stepped back. “After you, my lovely one.”
Inside the gate, the smell of sweet peas grew stronger. She stepped into a large circle, surrounded by neatly trimmed hedges. In the moonlight she counted seven statues.
Ogden went to the bench in the center of the enclosure and sat down, crossing his legs and smiling at her.
“See anyone you know?”
She frowned at him, and then gasped as realization dawned. She rushed to the first statue, that of a woman in partial dress. She placed her hand on the woman’s chest. The faint thud of a heartbeat greeted her.
“Of course she is. If she dies, her power dies with her. And it was her power that I wanted. It’s all mine, now. And if I want to take her out to play…“ he hissed in delight. “She was quite talented, and gave me mind-blowing orgasms. Hence her position in the orgasmic section of the garden.”
“You evil bastard.” She ran to the second statue, this one baring the face of someone she knew. “Kendra.”
“Yes, also a very talented little minx. She also thought she could best me. I have to give you credit, Ursel. Everyone who has come before you have tried to lure me with their bodies. Your refusal to do so is a testament to your love for Cadman.” He nodded toward the far end of the circle.
Ursel picked up her skirts and ran. Cadman’s statue was on a pedestal, his handsome features encased in stone. She touched his thighs. She could feel his heartbeat, feel the faint thud of his life force.
Tears welled in her eyes. “Cadman, my love.”
“How touching. Should I free him? Perhaps the two of you could fuck while I watched.”
She wheeled on him, energy shooting from her fingers. He barely moved as the bolts zinged past him and struck the trees in the background.
“I’d heard you were powerful. I see that it’s true.”
She took aim again, this time he had to move quickly, throwing up an invisible shield that captured the energy and then cracked into brilliant light.
“Careful, little one. You’ll destroy one of my children, and that would make me very unhappy. I’m in control here. You will behave, or you will join your friends.”
“You think you frighten me? I won’t lie with you. You’ll be forced to take me.”
“I don’t have to force myself upon you. I can take your powers without it. True, sex does make the transference more enjoyable. But it’s not necessary. And with you, well, as I said, I might make an exception. Join me. Together we can be the most powerful warlocks in England. We can control everyone.”
“Never.” Power arced between her fingers again. She had to wait for just the right moment to strike, try to catch him off his guard.
“Come now, you know that power excites you, as it does us all.” He started to walk toward her and she held out her hand, blue energy at the ready. “Try it again, and I’ll kill him.”
Her breath caught in her throat. He wasn’t kidding, she was sure of it. She had to find a way to stop him that would catch him unawares, use a spell that would bind his powers before he could hurt the people in this garden any more. But how? How could she do it? She needed time, time to think. She closed her fist and Butcher laughed.
“Love will be your downfall, sweet Ursel.” He took another step toward her and she stepped to the left, away from Cadman’s statue. If she could just kill Butcher, then she could find a way to release the souls he had trapped here.
“Love will stop you, Ogden. It will be your downfall.”
“Never. Love gets me what I want.”
She laughed. “Do you call it love? When you have sex with someone, then imprison them in stone? I feel sorry for you.”
An emotion she couldn’t decipher crossed his face quickly. Was it rage, or self-pity? If she pushed him further would she distract him enough to gain just a piece of control over him? Could she hurt him enough to summon help?
He had wards placed around his home; she knew that. Getting through them would be tough. But if he were hurt, if he were angry, perhaps the wards would waver somewhat and she could summon the rest of her coven. Together, they could take Butcher down.
“What bothers you the most? Is it the fact you have no love to give? Or is it that you do not receive love? When you summon a ‘toy’ out of the statue, you know they do not love you; they only fear you, fear that you will cause their death.”
“Fear is a powerful emotion, little one. One you’re feeling right now.”
“I don’t fear you. You’re too pitiful to fear. That’s what you are, a pitiful old man. How long have you been doing this? Is it worth it, to spend eternity alone?”
“But I’m not alone. I have all my friends.” He held out his arms as if to pull the statues closer to him.
“Friends?” Ursel laughed. “You call them your friends? Why, because you seduced them, then destroyed them? Given a chance any one of them would kill you. As I will.”
She flexed her fingers and a double-edged knife appeared in her hand.
“Such a small weapon. I prefer this.” He waved his fingers and an ancient broadsword appeared. He laughed at her, then turned and flung the sword at the statue of Cadman.
“Come forth!” The sword struck the statue the minute the stone disappeared and Cadman appeared. It speared his stomach and he doubled over, blood spewing from the wound.
“No!” She ran to him, dropping her knife in the process. She caught him as he fell, lowering him to the ground, holding his hand in her own.
“Ursel. Forgive me.” She touched the sword and Butcher’s power singed her fingers. She pulled back, pain shooting through her.
“My love. Don’t leave me.”
“I’m sorry,” He swallowed hard. “Love you… not protect… sor –”
“No!” She felt his life force leave his body, the physical form growing heavy. “Don’t leave me. I love you. Come back to me.” She massaged his shoulders, and then let out a cry of anguish. She laid him down gently, and then wheeled on Ogden.
“Spawn of the devil.” She shot an energy bolt at him, which he easily deflected. He caught the second one in his hand and hissed in delight.
“That’s it. Give them all to me. Give me your power.”
“You’re not a warlock, you’re worse. You’re a demon. But not for long.” She held out both hands, then gasped as rings of energy surrounded her body.
“You think not?” His voice sounded bored and lazy. Ursel flew through the air, landing on the stone bench in the center of the circle. The wind left her body as she hit, her arms falling down by her sides. When she’d recovered her breath she bent her legs in an effort to stand, but Ogden held out his hand.
Her body felt heavy, her feet felt as if they were strapped to the bench. She screamed in fury as her clothing disappeared.
“Such a seductive pose. A woman lounging on a bench, waiting for her lover.” He looked back at Cadman’s body. “What a pity. I did so enjoy his body. And getting rid of his physical form will be messy, and smelly. But I’ll make sure I do it in front of you, so you can see.”
The heaviness in her body increased. “Let me — go.”
He straddled her and held out his hands, whispering under his breath. She felt her powers bundle together, then lift from her body. She fought to pull them back, but she couldn’t lift her head, nor her hands. Her skin was slowly turning to stone, her body becoming heavier and heavier with each second.
“No.” The word was little more than a murmur, and then her mouth was frozen in place.
“Yes, my love.” His body glowed as he absorbed her powers. His hands were on his cock. Seconds later his warm seed spread over her now cold, stone body. Then, he sighed deeply and bent to her, his lips near her ear. “Don’t worry. I’ll visit you every night, and I’ll introduce you to each of my new toys. I promise.”